RISK LEVEL FOR PREIST REVIEWED
The Reverend Michael R. Hands, a 38 year old East Meadow priest, admitted in a Riverhead courtroom that he had sodomized a 14 year old boy two years ago. Hands was arrested in the parking lot of St. Raphael's Roman Catholic Church and has been charged with second degree sexual abuse and second and third degree sodomy in three separate alleged encounters in Suffolk County. He was arraigned and held on $125,000 cash bail. He has been accused of molesting a boy over a 1 1/2 year period, beginning when the boy was 13 years old. Police began investigating Hands after the boy's family contacted the department. He pleaded guilty to sodomy charges, admitting that he engaged in sex with the teenage boy between December 2000 and January 2001. Hands resigned from the ministry and was expected to serve 6 months in the Nassau County jail at his sentencing on April 23, 2001, but in a move that took many by surprise, Judge Donald DeRiggi told Hands that he was unable to keep his promise to the 6 month sentence in jail and 5 years' probation. He did not say what prompted him to back away from the commitment he made when Hands pleaded guilty to sodomy and endangering the welfare of a child. DeRiggi gave Hands until June 13, 2002 to decide whether he wants to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial or to go forward with the sentencing. DeRiggi did not say what sentence he would impose. Sentencing in that case was set for March 12.
Hands admitted wrongdoing under an agreement that will net him a sentence of 2 years in jail in Yaphank followed by 5 years' probation under the jurisdiction of Nassau County.
As expected, DeRiggi imposed a sentence of 6 months in jail and 5 years of probation to run concurrently with the 2 year jail term Hands received from Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow. DeRiggi told Hands he will be on probation for 5 years after he serves about 16 months in Suffolk. A violation of probation could send him to prison for up to 4 years, the judge warned, and Hands nodded his head in agreement. Hands also agreed to warrantless searches of his person and premises any time during the probationary term.
Hands has accused Monsignor Charles Ribaudo of sexually abusing him as a teen. In an attempt to explain his behavior, Hands said publicly in 2002 that he had been abused by Ribaudo, who was then chaplain at Trinity High School in Hicksville. While Ribaudo, who later became a popular pastor at an Oyster Bay parish, has denied Hands' allegation, Bishop William Murphy suspended Ribaudo as a priest. Ribaudo retired after that.
The family of the Suffolk teenager who was abused by Hands has sued the Diocese of Rockville Centre for $150 million, claiming officials knew of Hands' predatory behavior and did nothing to stop him. The lawsuit, filed January 22, 2004, in State Supreme Court in Mineola, charges that the diocese knew of Hands' sexual relationship with the minor and failed to report it to police because of a deliberate, covert policy and practice to protect priests and shield the diocese from embarrassment.
Hands was released from jail April 30, 2004, after serving 15 months in prison.
Maintaining his sexual abuse of the 13 year old boy was a one time offense that won't be repeated, Hands defended himself March 2, 2005, against allegations that he may have preyed on as many as six underage victims and could do so again. Hands appeared in a Riverhead court hearing to determine his risk level as a registered sex offender. Saying Hands continues to dwell in a dark corner of this world called child sexual abuse, prosecutor Donald Mates asked Braslow to depart from the standard formula for assessing a sex offender's risk level and assign him to the highest category, level 3. Hands was assigned a lesser risk level of 2 in Nassau.